Ricardo Delgado, storyboard artist for films such as Men In Black and Wall-E took a foray into the comics world beginning in 1996 with a panel by panel silent story called Tribal Warfare. The comic is about the everyday lives of dinosaurs as perceived through the eyes of a stunning visual artist. Over the next 20 years Delgado revisited his primal world adding new chapters and new tales to his epic.
In April of 2016 Dark Horse published the Age of Reptiles Omnibus, Volume 1 for the world to enjoy. I am coming back to it because the world of visual storytelling is massive. There are more comics than you can read and process published every week, and every month brings more story lines than one can manage, and that with one publisher. Imagine dedicating hours to reading all the Marvel or DC story arcs. It is difficult to sort out the gems – the artistic accomplishments you can enjoy going back to again and again.
These days I crave art, and Delgado delivers. His animals are exotic, terrifying, and yet original. Style is a huge contributor to the success of these comics. Delgado's dinos are fluid, fleshy (check out the wrinkles and folds on that massive crocodile), somewhat human in the way they carry themselves, movement, and emotion – yes, emotion. For brief moments his art communicates affection, fear, trepidation, and realization in a manner more mammalian than reptilian, or at least what we perceive as reptilian. With such huge and complex creatures can we not assume that their lives were more than eat, sleep, survive?
Delgado gives us that treat.
The line drawings are gorgeously detailed. Wait until you see the fish. He does not stray from the brutality of a scene, but plants us inside it. One can almost smell the dust and blood. In other panels he accentuates the world with tiny details like a dragonfly fluttering amidst the violence, or a plump scorpion and a beetle facing off.
Each panel displays the immortal elements of design. Repetition without redundancy, focal point, contrast, point of action, law of thirds, line, and the list goes on. Each page is carefully crafted, and you can tell.
Do not ignore the fact that the dinosaurs are individuals. Take a look at that Raptor line up. They are unique, recognizable. Whether a snack or a character the dinosaurs all have personality. The effect is mesmerizing. You find yourself not only wanting more, but curious about what happens next. That is the key to potent and successful storytelling. And he does it without an ounce of dialogue.
This is the kind of comic where you can bank on the fact that the artist put his passion and soul into the work.
Go with Delgado on this journey and leave reality for a moment. The stories are bite-sized, which makes the accomplishment all the more amazing.
Violent at times, frightening (peep that panel of the croc having a Raptor for lunch), touching, and of course fascinating because we all love dinosaurs, Age of Reptiles is tops on my recommendation list. Check it out!